Phanesia Pharel '21

It is often said that great art is created during troubled times, so it should come as no surprise that Barnard — well known for its alumnae writers — has seen this trend continue as the “twin pandemics” of COVID-19 and a renewed focus on racial injustice and violence sweep the world. In this new limited series, Barnard community members share poems and songs that speak to this unique moment in time. (If you would like to contribute, please email

Today, we feature Phanésia Pharel ’21’s “Poem 3.”

Poem 3

How can I rise?
The moment I tried to climb
My father grabbed a gun
And shot it at my legs eight times.
How can I rise?
The moment I tried to free my mind
I’m told that for brown girls like me
There is no such thing as sunshine
How can I rise?
When I call on my sisters
And I am ostracized.
How can I rise?
When he said he’d be by my side
And like all men
When it was the time
He was occupied.
How can I rise?
I ask myself this as I look into a blood-stained mirror
Genocide has just consumed me and found itself in my life
On my mirrors
In my bedsheets
I look into the mirror and I see time waiting
For them to incarcerate me
For them to break into the room and shoot me down like a dog for a parking violation that will never be found or reported
Time is laughing
I am breaking
Who is them?
I love that question
Systemic cycles of poverty, hatred and pain
Yankeedom and the end of harmony.
Systemic oppression roots from the acceptance of a system
When we allow the roadblocks to stay in place, whether we are behind or past them
I look into the mirror once more
How will I rise?